Western Trips

Friday, September 30, 2011

Madame Moustache

Nevada City California sits high in the Sierra Nevada mountains east of Auburn and Grass Valley California. It's a beautiful old California mining town with lots of history attached. In fact, it's one of the most scenic gold mining towns of the old west.

There are two main ways to get there. If you're traveling westbound on Interstate-80 over Donner Pass you would exit at State Hwy 20 near Emigrant Gap and continue westbound about 35 miles along a winding but absolutely picturesque road. Traveling from the Sacramento area you would exit Interstate-80 in Auburn and travel eastbound on State Hwy 20 through Grass Valley and then about another five miles further to the east/northeast. The photo below is downtown Nevada City, 2011.

The Characters of a Gold Mining Camp

Courtesy Travis Thurston,Wikipedia
Like every old mining town whether in California or elsewhere it had it's many stories and colorful characters. Nevada City was no exception. The following story offers a lot of insight as to how mining camps were set up as well as a good look at the types of people who resided there. There were colorful characters indeed. In the high flying years of 1854-55, during the California Gold Rush, there was a female gambler whose establishment gained great notoriety with area miners. Her particular game was called "vingt-et-un". In case you're not familiar with this game, it's the casino game we now refer to as "blackjack" or "21".
Eleanor Dumont

This woman by the name of Eleanor Dumont came virtually from nowhere. Prior to her arriving in Nevada City in 1854 nobody had heard of her. When the twenty-five year old Eleanor arrived on the stage from Sacramento it didn't take long for all that to change. The arrival of a woman in a mining town during those years was not really uncommon. Wives or fiances of miners, schoolteachers, even dance hall girls was not out of the ordinary. Eleanor Dumont didn't fit into any of these. From the moment she exited the stagecoach she stood out. After letting everyone know she was French she essentially spent her first week in Nevada City in her hotel room or sitting in the ladies parlor.

The Best Dressed Gamblers Anywhere

Eleanor's real intent of traveling to booming Nevada City didn't take too long to reveal itself. After about one week in Nevada City Eleanor set up a gambling house. She ran one table and she was THE dealer. The game of course was "blackjack". The grand opening featured free champagne. Reports are that the dusty miners washed up, put on their best clothes and boots to attend Eleanor's grand opening.

Now to the miners walking around with their gold dust a gambling hall was nothing out of the ordinary. What was out of the ordinary was having a woman as the owner not to mention blackjack dealer. These miners by all means were the best dressed gamblers of any gold camp gambling hall in all the west. Eleanor treated the awed miners with respect and gladly paid out if they won and even more gladly accepted their gold when they lost which was more the case. Believe it or not some miners had no problem losing their gold to a lady gambler. At least that's the way they said it was in Nevada City. There are no reports of how much was Eleanor's take on gala grand opening night but local lore is that everyone agreed she did very well.

Nevada City National Hotel Today

Eleanor, who picked up the nickname Madame Mustache because of the thin hair above her upper lip, worked Nevada City just as she had planned.  She arrived to take advantage of the town at it's peak in gold production and when the placer and dry diggings started to wane it was time to move on. In 1856 Eleanor moved on.

During the next twenty years the story of Madame Mustache is a bit sketchy. One problem was that the mining towns she moved to were a bit different from Nevada City. Nevada City was the county seat and the town was quite organized for the era and the location.

Other towns that Eleanor set up gambling houses had a rougher sort of clientele. These people weren't happy losing their money regardless of the gender of the recipient. The name Madame Mustache followed her wherever she went which including other mining camps in California and Nevada. History reports that Eleanor traveled to Idaho and the Union Pacific Railroad construction camps in Wyoming. There are also tales that she traveled to the Black Hills and Deadwood South Dakota. Another report said she also visited mining camps in British Columbia.

Wherever there were men and money to gamble Eleanor tried to be present. There are stories that floated around that Eleanor, years after leaving Nevada City didn't just confine her business activities to gambling but may have also operated bordello's. Whatever the truth is, Eleanor had the ability to find out where the easy money was and made sure she got a piece of it.

The End in Bodie

Eleanor's end came suddenly in 1879  in the eastern California mining camp of Bodie California. On September 9, 1879, the Sacramento Union newspaper reported in only three lines..."A woman named Eleanor Dumont was found dead to-day about one mile out of town, having committed suicide. She was well known throughout the mining camps". The local town folk buried Eleanor and it would be a year later that her obituary appeared in the official History of Nevada City, California.  Such was the story of Eleanor Dumont, Madame Mustache. You could say that she was the most mysterious single woman of the California gold mining towns.

Nevada City is one of the best old mining towns to visit while in California's Sierra Nevada foothills. The other one I would recommend visiting and not too far from Nevada City is Virginia  City Nevada and the Comstock Lode. Nevada City has ninety-three buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One interesting historic site is the National Hotel which still operates to this very day. The forty-three room National Hotel, established in 1852,  is said to be the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Rockies. That alone is worth a stop and photos. You'll find the National Hotel as one of the best restored buildings and hotels in Nevada City.  If you travel there in the summer months you'll find the weather in Nevada City very mild due to it's elevation.

Lotta Crabtree, 1868
Another must stop is the old Nevada Theater. Located in the center of town, the theater is California's oldest existing theater. Silent films were screened at the theater as early as 1908. Performers who appeared at the theater included Lotta Crabtree (one of the early west's most famous actresses and entertainers) , Mark Twain and Jack London. If you're California road trip takes you further west down Hwy 20 then you'll pass through Auburn California which was also one of the most booming gold sites in the Sierra's.

Additional related short stories of interest are Sutters Fort and the Gold Rush and California's Most famous Stagecoach Driver.

You may also be interested in a short story about Jack London.

(Photos from public domain. National Hotel photo from author's collection)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Buffalo Soldier History New Mexico

fort union new mexico
Courtesy National Parks, CC ShareAlike2.5
The picture at left is of the ruins of old Fort Union in northeastern New Mexico. The fort was originally built in 1851 and over the next years was relocated three different times within the same general area.

Like all western military forts, the purpose was for protection. Protection for the settlers and for the local populace. Fort Union was in a very strategic place, along the much traveled mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail. It was the main supply depot for goods coming into the New Mexico Territory. Located 8 miles northwest of Watrous New Mexico, Fort Union was at one time home to the Buffalo Soldiers when the cavalry and infantry units were established after the Civil War.

The Buffalo Soldiers served in several forts in New Mexico and to say they saw a lot of action is really an understatement. Among the New Mexico Territory forts where the Buffalo Soldiers served, five were built prior to the Civil War, four during the war and two after the wars end. Who are the Buffalo Soldiers and what was their history in the American West? It's an interesting story of bravery under adverse conditions.

The Establishment of the Buffalo Soldier Regiments

Both free northern blacks and former southern slaves were sought out by Uncle Sam to help in the Union cause. Regarding the Buffalo Soldiers history, some statistics regarding African-Americans during the Civil War are quite interesting and perhaps not well publicized. Various northern states organized black regiments during 1863 and 1864. There was a lot of debate about this caused mostly by racial prejudice. Many in the north simply felt that the U.S. Army should be a white army. Regardless, President Lincoln signed an act that led to formation of black units. The number of black men who the Union enlisted during the Civil War totaled near 200,000. Black troops fought in no less than 449 engagements stretching from the east all the way to the western frontier. Before the war ended, there were twenty-nine volunteer black regiments and the Army itself fielded 130 black infantry regiments. In 1864 these regiments were officially called the "U.S. Colored Troops".

ninth cavalry buffalo soldiers
Ninth Cavalry Buffalo Soldier, 1890
When the war concluded the debate over blacks in the U.S. military started anew. Again, many thought that the peacetime military should be a white military. The history of the Buffalo Soldiers to this point was impressive. This debate raged on despite the fact that the African-American troops greatly distinguished themselves during the war.

Again, regardless of the debate, the Army was given permission in 1866 to organize African-American regiments. It was well understood that when the Civil War ended there would be a great need for troops on the western frontier. This was made quite clear by the Indian depredations that occurred in the west during the war when so many of the troops were sent back east. While the African-American regiments made great contributions for the Union during the war, they would make similar contributions protecting settlers and railroad construction crews in the west.

Frontier Life of the Buffalo Soldier

The Buffalo Soldiers had a much rougher time in general than white soldiers, especially in places like New Mexico. The white troops were generally held in lower esteem by much of the local populace because they were soldiers. The black troops had to endure this level disrespect and even more because of their skin color. Things could get a bit testy when Buffalo Soldiers made their presence known in towns with a Confederate secessionist history. This was very true in areas of Texas where the black troops did have a big presence at Fort Davis and Fort Concho. See our Western Trips articles on these two forts on the links below.

 Fort Davis and Fort Concho.

The Buffalo Soldiers were involved in many things while stationed in New Mexico. Not all things had to do with glorious battles. Duty included normal patrols searching for renegade Indians, offering protection to stage and freight lines and of course protecting the railroad building crews not to mention town folk and travelers. Two very significant events took place in New Mexico where their involvement was especially noted. That was the campaign against the renegade Apache Chief Victorio. The other, and this link will take you to our article, was the infamous Lincoln County Wars.  
apache chief victorio
Apache Chief Victorio

New Mexico Action

The start of what was referred to as Victorio's War was when the Apache Chief left the San Carlos Reservation in 1877. What ensued were a few years of raids and killings by Victorio's forces. The Buffalo Soldiers who had been stationed at Fort Stanton, Fort Bayard and Fort Seldon in southern New Mexico spent many months on the hunt for Victorio. Several Buffalo Soldiers were killed in this long campaign. It was a dangerous business and required much discipline. A big problem with pursuing renegades like Victorio and Geronimo was that they could skip over the Mexican border and the U.S. legally could not cross after them.

The U.S. and Mexico had been trying to negotiate an agreement but with no progress. The Mexican citizenry was also attacked by the renegade bands and the Mexican military also pursued them. That being said, there were instances where the cavalry rode into Mexico in pursuit of Indian leaders such as Geronimo.

Eventually Victorio surrendered at the Mescalero Apache Agency but as he had done previously, he bolted. When Victorio started raiding again in New Mexico in January 1880, the Ninth Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers were sent out again in pursuit. Raids and engagements occurred during the spring and summer with Victorio many times taking refuge in the mountains. His victims typically were ranchers and miners found in isolated areas. After many months of hit and run attacks, Victorio was finally engaged and killed in September 1880 much to the relief of New Mexico's settlers.

Another more touchy matter with the use of Buffalo Soldiers occurred in Lincoln County New Mexico. This incident didn't involve Native Americans. It involved a quarrel between white men. Lincoln County New Mexico in 1869 was a large unsurveyed area comprising most of southeastern New Mexico Territory. Since that time the county has been divided into several smaller counties. The area was used for cattle grazing and as you might imagine it was also home to many strange characters. Cattle ranchers, farmers, merchants, cowboys, soldiers, Indians, general outlaws and of course cattle rustlers. The area was so unstable during the 1870's that even the nearby Mescalero Apaches on their reservation had a difficult time keeping safe.

The Lincoln County Wars

lincoln county war map
Basic map of Lincoln in 1870's.Pecos River to north. Wikipedia
The Lincoln County War which took place 1878-1880 was a  feud between two factions. One faction, the Murphy-Dolan group, were merchants entrenched in the county for years with a lot of political clout. The other was a new group trying to take some of the local power away from the incumbents. The feud grew nasty and violent. There were hired gunmen employed by both sides and the result was sporadic bloodshed.

Billy The Kid was aligned with the newer faction, the McSween-Tunstall group, and supposedly was directly involved in several shootings. Billy the Kid was responsible for shooting the newest sheriff William Brady. Also, a local lawyer who was working for the new faction was  gunned down on the streets of Lincoln. This crime was thought to be committed by hired guns of the Murphy group. Troops from nearby Fort Stanton were drawn into the war by the next sheriff. Acting on his request a detachment from nearby Fort Stanton was given the go ahead by military superiors in Santa Fe as well as by the territorial governor. During this first request for assistance, mostly because of the heated atmosphere the troops stayed just outside of town. There presence was known to all but there were no confrontations. The troops then withdrew back to Ft. Stanton.

It was reported that everything later came to a head when McSween entered Lincoln with about 40 gunmen. McSween (Tunstall had already been murdered earlier by a sheriff's posse supposedly on orders from Murphy) was in his home with his wife and about 15 to 20 gunmen.

Other gunmen for both sides were stationed on top of adobe structures. What ensued were several days of sporadic gunfire between the McSween men and the sheriff and Murphy gunmen. The sheriff, being somewhat aligned with the Murphy group,  asked Lt. Colonel Dudley at Ft. Stanton for a howitzer. Dudley refused the request. Later on, another request by then sheriff Peppin (the current sheriff)  asked that the military again intervene. This happened at about the same time a plea for military assistance to end the violence was made by a group of local Mexican women. Lt. Colonel Dudley, in charge at the fort, sent troops to Lincoln once again including his Buffalo Soldiers. Dudley sent these troops even though his superiors had told him to now stay out of any civilian matters in Lincoln. A lot of politics were involved.

sheriff pat garrett
Pat Garrett

About a dozen Buffalo Soldiers who were stationed at Ft. Stanton were sent to Lincoln by Dudley with their white officers and other troops to help restore some order. Some show of force seemed to be needed. What transpired next was sometime disputed depending on who told the tale. While the Buffalo Soldiers were in the center of town the gunfire still continued around the McSween house.

Sheriff Peppin had an arrest warrant for McSween but obviously couldn't serve it. The house was eventually set on fire by Peppin's men. McSween was shot and killed during the exchange and Billy the Kid and others escaped out the back. The Buffalo Soldiers were sent on a few different missions to capture the Kid but were unsuccessful. Billy the Kid was eventually arrested by Pat Garrett for Brady's murder and was later killed by Garrett after his trial and after escaping from jail.

The Buffalo Soldiers served in many areas of the frontier west and they served very well just as they had during the Civil War days. While they haven't seemed to gain the same fame as soldiers like George Armstrong Custer and General Phillip Sheridan, their story has been coming out and publicized a bit more. The Buffalo Soldiers daily routine was every bit the same as other U.S. Army troops. In addition to the dangerous pursuit of renegade Indians the Buffalo Soldiers did the  routine duty of building shelters, escorting stage coaches and freighters and keeping the infrastructure of the fort running.

The Fort Union National Monument could be a good addition to your New Mexico vacation planner. The site is located 94 miles north of Santa Fe New Mexico. Take Interstate-25 north to exit 366 in Watrous New Mexico and go about 8 miles on NM Rte 161. From Colorado Springs Colorado take I-25 south to exit 366.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)


Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts / Lake Guernsey State Park Wyoming

guernsey lake in Wyoming
The Old Wagon Rut Displays
Lake Guernsey State Park near Guernsey Wyoming is one of the best places to see the preserved wagon wheel ruts from the days of the Oregon Trail.

 This site is a must see during your Wyoming vacation. If you're just traveling through Wyoming, this is one of the finest side trips you can add to your itinerary. Inside  Lake Guernsey State Park is a separate National Historic Landmark named the Oregon Trail Ruts.The best examples of wagon wheel ruts put there by wagon trains, many made by wagons weighing perhaps 2,500 pounds, are a few miles to the south of Guernsey in southeastern Wyoming. You may also want to visit the nearby Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Fort Laramie offers a lot of great 1800's history itself and makes an excellent companion visit. This area of Wyoming was crossed by the 1841-1869 era Oregon Trail. Today, in several parts of Wyoming, remnants of The Oregon Trail can still be seen. Some of the best examples are the ones located are around Guernsey Wyoming. 

The Long Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail route was a busy trail during the first half of the 1800's  with thousands of people traveling from Independence Missouri to Oregon City Oregon. Often the destination was Oregon's fertile Williamette Valley. When you view the old wagon wheel ruts you get an idea of the ordeal the pioneers endured on the trail. The emigrants traveled in a wagon train for safety. The trail from western Missouri to Oregon was wild and mostly uncharted territory. The dangers were many. Disease, starvation, wagon breakdowns and of course there was the Indian question. Would the wagon train come under Indian attack. To try to provide a degree of security the army built a line of forts, such as Fort Kearney in Nebraska, but the cavalry could not always be relied on simply because the distance to the nearest military post could be hundreds of miles.

It cost about $1,000 for a family to make the trip. In addition it cost about $400 for a wagon. The wagons on the Oregon Trail would usually depart from Missouri in April. A timetable for the wagon trains would have to be met because a trip over the Sierra Nevada's in winter could lead to disaster. At mountain altitudes severe snow storms could occur well before the beginning of April.

The Frontier Ordeal and the Diaries

oregon trail wagon ruts
Preserved wagon ruts
Merrill Mattes, historian of the Great Platte River Road, estimates that one in every two hundred emigrants on the Oregon Trail kept diaries while on the overland trail west. Much can be learned from these diaries and researchers love them. many of the diaries have already been turned over to museums but every so often another turns up in family archives.

 The diaries were written in many different styles, some in long prose and other just short notes jotted down. The following excerpt regarding an apparent cholera epidemic while on the Oregon wagon tail tells a lot about the horrors of frontier travel. The excerpt is from the Kansas University archives and is from the diary of Mrs. Cecilia McMillen Adams during her families trip from Illinois to Oregon in 1852 on the Oregon Trail.

"Child's grave . . . smallpox . . . child's grave.. . . [We] passed
7 new-made graves. One had 4 bodies in it . . . cholera. A
man died this morning with the cholera in the company
ahead of us. . . . Another man died. . . . Passed 6 new
graves. . . . We have passed 21 new-made graves . . . made
18 miles. . . . Passed 13 graves today".

See our article and photos of Oregon City, Oregon, the official terminus of the famous Oregon Trail.

More Sites to See

Today's modern west offers several sites where artifacts of the old west can still be seen. A few excellent ones are Independence Rock in Wyoming and Pompeys Pillar in south central Montana. Both of these sites feature etched names and signatures in rocks left there by pioneers, scouts and explorers.

Pompeys Pillar in Montana features the etched name of William Clark of the 1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition. Also, Register Cliff which is about  two miles southeast of Guernsey has what they refer to as a "chalkboard" where wagon train pioneers wrote their names. It's estimated that about 500,000 emigrants traveled these trails between 1843 and 1869. 

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 meant much less travel over the trail. The Oregon Trail site was about one days journey from the safety of Fort Laramie therefore it was a well used overnight stopping point for wagon trains. The landmark still remains in good condition much like it looked to settlers journeying west over 150 years ago. trading post was located near the cliff that also served as a Pony Express stop in 1861 and a regular stage station after that. All these places can be found and visited on a short road trip around the Guernsey Wyoming area.

Visit Guernsey Lake

The historic Guernsey Lake State Park is located northwest of the town of Guernsey Wyoming about 100 miles north of Cheyenne.

Take Interstate-25 north of Cheyenne to Rte. 26 (exit 92) and go east about 15 miles. Today, Guernsey Lake State Park offers exhibits about the Civilian Conservation Corp and buildings from the era. The buildings were constructed of timbers and hand-forged iron by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. The park which contains the Guernsey Reservoir on the North Platte River  was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996. Also, Guernsey Park is available for campers to the area. There are several types of campsites to chose from the cliffs area to sites near the beach. There are 7 total campgrounds. Five are on the lake with a total of 142 campsites. Photos courtesy National Park Service.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Puget Sound Washington / Mosquito Fleet

Steamer in 1882 Seattle
The Washington State Ferry system offers a unique adventure for the Seattle area traveler. It is definitely a fine addition to your Washington State vacation planner. When visiting Seattle Puget Sound is a main attraction. The modern fleet today was predated by a lot of very interesting history. History that goes back well over a century.

Early Puget Sound

There was probably no better place for steamboat transportation in the 1880's than the Puget Sound in Washington State. The South Puget Sound area at Tacoma all the way north to the Canadian border is a mountain surrounded scenic wonder. The location of Puget Sound dotted with islands and a growing population was ideal for steamboat  transportation. During this time there were  a great many vessels plying the Puget Sound waters.  These busy vessels were referred to as the "Mosquito Fleet", a collection of small steamer lines serving the Puget Sound area during the later part of the nineteenth century and early part of the 20th century. Washington state transportation depended very much on ferry transportation.

From the 1850s to the 1930s privately owned steamships and sternwheelers sailed all along the Puget Sound from the South Puget area all the way north to Canada. Eventually there were thousands of these vessels and local residents said they resembled a “swarm of mosquitoes”. The Washington ferries schedule was quite extensive even during the early years. These ships were very important during the early settlement days because there were no other alternatives to transporting both passengers and supplies.

A Steamboat Named Josephine on Puget Sound

In the late 1800's, there were quite a few routes that the steamboats sailed on both north and south of Seattle. At this time The Josephine was making regular runs between Seattle and the Upper Skagit River in 1878. Not to be confused with, there was another well known steamboat named Josephine that was involved with the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

This was the era where steam power was the mode of transportation energy, both with the railroads and with boats. Steam had it's advantages and unfortunately a few disadvantages as well. Boiler explosions on steamboats was a nagging problem for decades, back to the 1840's and 50's. Many people lost their lives on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Every year there were several accounts of boiler explosion catastrophes in the nation's press. One inherent problem with steamboat boilers was that the boiler itself was located deep within the vessel's infrastructure. If the boiler wasn't monitored properly or if it had design flaws, the outcome was deadly. In a boiler explosion the boat would be torn apart and burn. This happened with the Saluda steamboat explosion at Lexington Missouri. The Josephine had a boiler that was  salvaged from another vessel and overhauled.

Sternwheeler docked on Puget Sound
On January 16, 1883 the Josephine was on her regular run when shortly after 12 noon her boiler exploded. Amazingly, just three short weeks prior to this her boiler received a government inspection and was approved.

The explosion caused the vessel to split in half and the boiler section sunk in about 30 feet of water. Many of the survivors suffered both leg and head injuries. The explosion pushed up the cabin floor and trapped many people.There were many broken or sprained legs, ankles, and feet. One report at the time stated there were nine fatalities. A later inquiry pinned the cause as low water level in the boiler and the vessels commanders were charged with criminal negligence. It wasn't the first time that poor monitoring of a boiler caused loss of life.

The Steamboat Dix

Mount Rainier view from Puget Sound
There was another Puget Sound shipping disaster that was much more deadly. The steamboat Dix which was part of the Mosquito Fleet collided with the three masted schooner Jeanie in Puget Sound.

The accident occurred on November 18, 1906 off Alki Point. The captain happened to be off the bridge at the time collecting fares which was not uncommon in that era. The collision with the schooner pushed the Dix on it's side and it sank within minutes.

 The disaster became known as the worse maritime accident in Puget Sound history. There were various reports of fatalities, mostly between 40 to 50. Thirty-eight people survived. Because the steamer sunk in 600 feet of water, the lost were never recovered. After all these years the wreck of the Dix was finally found by underwater cameras in March 2011.

The Mosquito Fleet steamers of course came in various sizes and the description below will give you an idea of a sample vessel.

Reported in "Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest", "Finest Steamers in the Northwest Appear on Puget Sound Waters", E. W. Wright, Antiquarian Press, Ltd., 1961, p. 375. (Tacoma Public Library)

"The steamer Garland, launched at Port Townsend for Hastings & Horn, was a well built propeller seventy-seven feet seven inches long, seventeen feet six inches beam, and six feet seven inches hold, and was originally intended for towing and freighting. She has recently been lengthened thirty feet, fitted up with handsome passenger accommodations, and has run on the Victoria route."

The Puget Sound Modern Fleet

The original fleet of Washington ferries have been replaced by the larger, modern ferry that carry millions of autos and foot passengers across the sound each year and considered part of the state's highway system very similar to Alaska's water ferries. As of 2011, there are a total of 22 ferries on Puget Sound which are operated by the state. The largest vessels carry as many as 2500 passengers and 202 vehicles. They are painted in a white and green trim paint scheme, and feature double-ended open vehicle decks and bridges at each end so that they do not need to turn around.

Washington State Ferry,Share Alike
To the left is an image of a modern Washington State Ferry. Photo courtesy of Bluedisk from Wikipedia.

 In 1951 the State of Washington bought almost all of the remaining Puget Sound fleet. At that time the remaining line, the Black Ball Line about five vessels. The states intent was to run the ferry service temporarily until bridges were constructed. The bridge construction across the sound never happened and the State of Washington continues to run a total of twenty-two ferry boats to this day.

Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the United States. It carries more automobiles than any other water transit system in America. The ferry system is also a major tourist attraction for the state considering the natural beauty of the Puget Sound region. Some utilize it as a work commuter and others as a vacation adventure.The ferries carry more than 10 million cars per year and more than 22 million passengers per year. The system not only serves eight counties in Washington but also travels to British Columbia and has 17 terminals along the sound.You can catch the ferry a short 11 miles from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

There's another interesting historic site on Puget Sound. Constructed in 1891, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was a strategic U.S. military asset in both World War One and World War Two. Situated near the city of Bremerton on Sinclair Inlet, the Puget Sound naval Shipyard was America's first dry-dock and repair facility in the Northwest capable of handling the largest ships.  At the conclusion of World War Two, the shipyard work changed from repair work to the deactivation and storage of Pacific Fleet vessels. The aerial image below left show three decommissioned aircraft carriers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Photo courtesy of Jelson25, Wikipedia
Whether you travel to the Seattle area for business or pleasure, the Washington State Ferry system offers a picturesque side trip on the Puget Sound.

A Washington vacation really isn't complete until you have a chance to ride the Puget Sound ferries. Here is the website for schedules, fares and additional information and Washington State ferry times. Make sure to bring a camera. Another fun option while in Washington State is to take the Black Black Ball Ferry Line's daily trip between port Angeles Washington and Victoria British Columbia.

(Article copyright Western trips. Photos and images in public domain)

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Her name was Phoebe Ann Oakley Mozee. Her sisters called her Annie and that's the name America knew her by. Phoebe was born in 1860 in a cabin in the western border area of Ohio. The cabin is located about 5 miles east of present day North Star, Ohio.

The Teenage Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley
The young Annie began hunting for game at nine years of age. She was born in an Ohio log cabin and had to help her widowed mother support the family. Annie supported her family by shooting and selling game to restaurants and grocers in Greenville and other nearby towns.

She became such a good shot that at the age of sixteen Phoebe entered a shooting contest held in Cincinnati. She traveled to the contest with a man named Frank Butler who was an excellent shot himself and worked in vaudeville. The contest in Cincinnati had lasting effects. Frank Butler fell in love with Phoebe and she with him. She not only won the contest in Cincinnati but ended up marrying Frank. It was after she met and married Frank Butler in 1881 that Annie adopted the stage name of “Annie Oakley”.

After the marriage Annie became an assistant to Frank's traveling sharpshooter act although he knew she was much too talented as a sure shot to be left in the background. The first troupe which Annie and Frank joined was the Sells Brothers Circus. They were highlighted as "champion rifle shots". They performed with the circus for only one year.

Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West

Certainly the most significant career change for Annie was when she and Frank joined the famed Wiiliam Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West in 1885. Reenactments of the old west days were extremely popular. William Cody was recruiting many interesting people to perform in his Wild West and Annie and Frank's marvelous shooting abilities fit the bill.

Prior to joining the Wild West, Annie and Frank shared the star billing. Beginning with their relationship with Buffalo Bill's troupe, Annie was the star attraction. William Cody not only hired frontiersman and women but also a great many Native American's who traveled throughout Europe on the show. At one point Chief Sitting Bull who was known for his influence at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was part of Cody's Wild West. The biography of sitting Bull mentions that he participated with William Cody for one season.

William Buffalo Bill Cody built a traveling show like no other. People were quite excited to see his interpretation of life in the old west. The authentic performers on the show made it truly the wild wild west show of the late 1800's. It's interesting to note that even though the Wild West was a portrayal of the old west, the old west had not completely died away at that time as our Western Trips link about the Johnson County War near Buffalo Wyoming in 1892 attests to. The Indian Wars may have faded away but there more than enough violence still going on between cattlemen and settlers.

Annie's Shooting Acts

To give you an idea of Annie Oakley's shooting skill, she could shoot a dime tossed in mid air ninety feet.  For seventeen years Annie Oakley was the Wild West Show's star attraction with her marvelous shooting feats. Another act was shooting a playing card tossed in the air and hitting it up to six times before it hit the ground. Both of these feats seem almost impossible. The theater industry even paid homage to Oakley's card shooting act by naming used tickets "Annie Oakleys" because they typically had holes punched through them.

Annie Oakley the Patriot

Annie Oakley made an offer to President McKinley in 1898 to organize a group of fifty women into a fighting force if a war was to come against Spain. Following is Oakley's letter to President McKinley courtesy of the U.S. National Archives Wiki for Researchers...

Hon Wm McKinley President
Dear Sir I for one feel confident that your good judgment will carry America safely through without war. But in case of such an event I am ready to place a company of fifty lady sharpshooters at your disposal. Every one of them will be an American and as they will furnish their own arms and ammunition will be little if any expense to the government.

very truly, Annie Oakley

The offer was not taken up. She made the same offer later to Theodore Roosevelt. The offer again was not accepted but as it turned out Roosevelt himself organized his "Rough Riders", a name he borrowed from Buffalo Bill's Wild West. When the U.S. entered World War One, Annie made similar offers to organize a group of female fighting soldiers. That offer was likewise rejected. She even made an offer to teach marksmanship to the troops. There is no record of that being accepted as well. She did travel to military camps during the war however there are no records of her actually training the troops. Whatever the circumstances, you have to give Annie an A+ for her patriotic stance.

Touring Europe

Sharpshooter Annie stayed with Buffalo Bill's Wild West until 1901. As a side note, the Wild West also featured the sharpshooter, Lillian Smith, who competed against Oakley for a few years during the mid 1880's.

 While on the Wild West tour in England she was accepted by the audience as being truly representative of the old west. The English audience adored her. During her first visit to England, Annie had the opportunity to meet Queen Victoria. When she made her second trip to England in 1891 they honored the famous sharpshooter by playing the "Wild West Waltz" daily.

One of Annie's favorite pastimes was hunting. While in England with the Wild West, Annie and Frank accepted an invitation to hunt on Englishman Edward Clark's five thousand acre estate. Annie's media promoted hunting trips also served to bridge the gap between males and females in as much as hunting was then widely considered a male only sport. When the Wild West toured the Continent, both Annie and Frank visited Paris, Marseilles, Rome, Naples and a host of other cities. Reporters were never far behind.

Her decision to quit Buffalo Bill's troupe was actually made after a horrific train accident in the U.S.  involving the show. Annie's back sustained injuries seriously in the accident after she was thrown from her bed but recovered after several surgeries. Buffalo Bill tried to entice her back but was unsuccessful.

While there is some disagreement as to exactly why Annie resigned from the Wild West, most people just attribute it to needing a break. The extensive traveling took it's toll with Annie's hair turning white. At least many people seem to attribute the stress to the graying hair. Oakley actually stayed with the Wild West much longer than she originally predicted.  Oakley really became a living legend and had no need for further publicity. Amazingly, Oakley continued to set marksmanship records even when she was in her sixties.

The Latter Years

Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill, 1895
Annie Oakley ended up joining Vernon Seaver's Young Buffalo Show in 1911 and stayed for two years. Her performance there was basically the same shooting routine she employed with Buffalo Bill. Her husband, Frank Butler, continued acting as her publicity agent, writing articles and press releases for Annie. Annie was a quite gracious performer, especially when it came to orphans. Many time she invited orphans and young children to attend her performances.

When Annie Oakley wrote her biography during the 1920's, she revealed her highly competitive nature. While accepting her performances as being a job, she also told how she relished the sharpshooting as a competitive sport. You could say she was a person her enjoyed her job quite well. Annie and Frank also owned a marvelous collection of firearms which some historians contend was probably the best single private collection in the world.

Annie's legend only grew larger in later life. With her biographies coming out in the 1920's, the same year that women won the right of suffrage, she began to represent many things to women. Her For one, to the younger women, she represented a woman who had a successful career while being married. To the older women she represented benevolence and achievement. This amazing woman is remembered as an American folk hero and legend.

Wild West show, 1890
The couple attempted to make a show business  comeback in 1922 but Annie was severely injured in an auto accident and the injuries prevented any attempt to go on the road again.

There is an interesting story in the book "The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley" written by author Glenda Riley which illustrates how Annie kept her fine shooting skills throughout her life.

In March of 1923 both Annie and Frank drove to Leesburg Florida where the Philadelphia Phillies were in spring training. Frank set up the targets, Annie assembled her guns and the baseball team and youngsters who were present took seats in the bleachers. With her leg in a brace due to the car accident, Annie Oakley stood on her other leg and winged pennies and hit eggs that Frank tossed up. The entire audience broke out in applause.

Hollywood and our history books have kept the legend of Annie Oakley alive through motion pictures, television, on the stage, in libraries and museums. Also, the Broadway musical "Annie Get Your Gun" is somewhat based on the life of Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.

Both Annie and her husband Frank died in 1926, within a mere 18 days of each other. Both died of natural causes.

Stops to Add to Your Western Trip Planner

The National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth Texas has many excellent exhibits of women of the old west. In the summer of 2000, the State of Ohio renamed the US127 highway “Annie Oakley Memorial Pike” in honor of Darke County’s distinguished native.

You will also want to visit the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody Wyoming for great exhibits on the Wild West show and Annie Oakley's involvement. If you're in the Ohio area, the Annie Oakley Memorial Park in Greenville Ohio features a lifesize bronze statue of Annie Oakley. Greenville is located in western Ohio in Darke County near the Indiana border.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Trading Posts / Original Hubbell Trading Post

The Hubbell Trading Post can be said to be the oldest still operating trading post in the United States. Located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona, the post is a National Historic Site and is operated by the Western National Parks Association as a non-profit enterprise. This association still carries on the business that the Hubbell family started in 1878. The site is an authentic Native trading post and well worth a trip to.

Navajo History in Arizona and New Mexico

hubbell trading post
Trading Post, Courtesy NPS
The year 1868  was the year the Navajo's, who historians trace back to the 1500's, returned to the northeastern Arizona area after their forced exile to Bosque Redondo near Ft. Sumner New Mexico.

Historians refer to this as "The Long Walk". While at Bosque Redondo they became acquainted with items they never had seen before.

The Navajo Indian Reservation was established by the Treaty of 1868 after their release from captivity. The reservation size is about 3.3 million acres near the Four Corners area. The history of the Navajo is very interesting. 

The Navajo lived in homes called hogans. These were round dwellings built with sticks, earth, brush and hides. The Navajos also built six sided hogans. The hogans consisted of one room with the front door always facing east to catch the early morning sunlight. The Navajo's are considered to be the largest tribe of all Native Americans. The Spaniards were the first Europeans who the Navajo traded with. They would travel to the towns the Spaniards set up and display their wares for barter. There were many things the Spaniards brought with them that were very useful to the tribe. 

Violence Between Two Cultures

picture of hubbell at trading post
Hubbell and weaver at trading post, 1890
As with most cases of culture clash there was violence. The Spaniards, Mexicans and eventually the Americans used military force to try to subdue the Navajo tribe. 

In the case of the Spaniards, they experienced a pueblo revolt in New Mexico about 75 years after they established Santa Fe. The Navajos, who were not involved in that 17th century war, were later accused of raiding the camps of Europeans. 

The Americans established formal military forts to force the Navajo on reservations. About two-thirds of the tribe surrendered and were resettled. Others fled north to Utah or hid in canyons. 

The famed scout, fur trader and military officer, Kit Carson, was involved in several campaigns against the Navajo during the early years of the New Mexico Territory after the Mexican-American War ended. Eventually the Treaty of 1868 settled the matter of where the Navajos would reside. They were able to leave the area near Ft. Sumner New Mexico. The exact boundaries of the current reservation in northeastern Arizona were altered a few times after 1868.

Established in 1878

John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased the trading post in 1878, 10 years after the Navajos returned to their native lands. Earlier in life Hubbell had served as a Spanish interpreter with the Army since his ancestry was half Spanish.

Referred to as Don, a Spanish designation of respect, Hubbell had a career that spanned more than trading. During his lifetime he served as sheriff of Apache County Arizona, was an Arizona Territorial legislator and served in the Arizona senate after statehood in 1912.

Hubbell married a Spanish woman and had two sons and two daughters. As the family grew so did the original adobe house that Hubbell built. The old adobe house eventually became a larger much more comfortable home. The Hubbell family was quite different from most early pioneer traders. Most traders, if they had a family as a rule left their families back east. In the case of the Hubbells the entire family spent most of the year at the trading post. The Navajo people needed to trade with outsiders like John Lorenzo Hubbell. He filled a big need. The Navajos needed to supplement their own crops and products with good's from the outside. The Navajo's were able to trade Hubbell goods such as wool, sheep,  rugs, jewelry, baskets, and pottery.

The Lasting Legacy of the Hubbell Trading Post

navajo nation flag
Navajo Nation Flag
The Hubbell family members continued to operate the business for almost 100 years until they sold it in 1965 to the National Park Service.

During Hubbells trading career he built 30 similar trading posts spread throughout Arizona, California and New Mexico. The trading post store is still very much in business and is a must stop for serious collectors of Native American products. Along with the trading post is the original 160 acre homestead. The Hubbell Trading Post is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It is a real part of the Navajo Nation.

The Hubbell Trading Post has ongoing programs today to benefit both the Navajo and Hopi Indians. The Friends of Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Inc. arranges various events that provide funds for scholarships to Navajo and Hopi students. Their mission as stated on their website is.."Our Mission - Friends of Hubbell Trading Post NHS is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1990. Our aim is to aid and promote the management of programs and objectives of the Historic Site. Other goals include supporting Native American arts and crafts through our biannual Native American Art Auction , providing scholarships to Navajo and Hopi college students, and to increase the awareness of the trading post heritage in the Southwest". The Navajo trading post stays very involved with the Navajo culture.

The Hubbell Trading Post is located one mile west of Hwy. 191 in Ganado, Arizona on U.S. Highway 264.

If you're traveling via I-40 you can follow U.S. Highway 191 North to Ganado. If you are driving directly from Gallup, New Mexico, follow U.S. Highway 491 North to U.S. Highway 264 then west toward Ganado. This route will take you though Window Rock Arizona which is the site of the spectacular "Window Rock", an excellent photo opportunity.

The Hubbell Trading Post is located on the Navajo Reservation. There are certainly many excellent National Parks in Arizona to visit during your Arizona vacation. Step back in time by adding the historic Hubbell Trading Post to your Arizona vacation planner. You'll see some very good Navajo products and learn more about the Navajo history.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pompeys Pillar and the Lasting Signature of William Clark

pompeys pillar montana
Pompeys Pillar National Monument is not only a scenic picture taking stop on your western U.S. road trip but it also offers the visitor an opportunity to see what physical remnants remain of the great American westward exploration and migration..

 Pompeys Pillar

yellowstone river map
Yellowstone Watershed,Courtesy Shannon1
Located in south central Montana, 28 miles east of Billings off Interstate-94, the sandstone butte which is Pompeys Pillar is one of the most famous sandstone buttes in America.

 It was a significant Lewis and Clark discovery. The Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1803-1806 was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and was America's first exploration to the Pacific Coast.

Part of the expedition's goal was to ascertain the available resources in this region that had been acquired with the Louisiana Purchase. It was at this site that Captain William Clark carved his name in July of 1806 while returning from his expedition to the Oregon country. Today's western U.S. tourist can see the signature just as Clark etched it over 200 years ago. Actually, many other historic figures from the 1800's also observed the signature such as the famous steamboat pilot Captain Grant Marsh while maneuvering the steamboat Josephine up the Yellowstone River. Captain Marsh gained fame as the pilot of the steamboat Far West during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Marsh set a speed record while returning down the Missouri with wounded cavalrymen.

Also, in 1873 Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer camped with his troops opposite the Pillar. The first official observation of Clark's signature was reportedly in 1863 by James Stuart, a Montana pioneer and prospector. In addition to the Native American pictographs and William Clark's signature there are hundreds of other initials carved into the rock including many early pioneers who journeyed by.

Independence Rock in Wyoming is another historic site with names and initials carved in during America's westward migration. Initials carved cover a wide variety of travelers including fur trappers, railroad workers, missionaries, army troops and settlers. At Pompeys Pillar, a walkway of about 200 steps takes you to the upper part of the tower where you can see Clark's original signature. The signature is preserved behind a brass and glass case to protect it from the effects of nature. Pompeys Pillar was and is a very impressive as William Clark's journal entry describes the site as “remarkable rock” with its “extensive view in every direction.

As many historians know, the Lewis and Clark journals describe the expedition very well. Among some very interesting Lewis and Clark journal entries is the group's encounter with Montana Grizzly Bears. While at first they noted how easy it was to bring down the giant animal with a rifle, later journal entries describe how the beast chased them into rivers and up trees.

Pompeys Pillar location at a natural ford on the Yellowstone River, along the Lewis and Clark route, and being the only major high outcropping in the area made Pompeys Pillar a popular landmark. Historians believe that native peoples have used Pompeys Pillar as an observation point for over 11,000 years.

Naming the Site

pompeys pillar
Clark's signature at Pompeys Pilla
William Clark originally named the site Pompeys Tower but the name was changed to Pompeys Pillar after Nicolas Biddle wrote an account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Clark named the Pillar for young Baptiste Charbonneau who he had nicknamed "Pompy", the infant son of Sacagawea who was a Shoshoni woman accompanying the expedition. Lewis and Clark left few reminders on the land as they traveled west. William Clark’s engraved signature on Pompeys Pillar is one of them.

Land of the Crow Indians

For many centuries this rock outcropping which rises about 150 feet from the banks of the Yellowstone River served as an important landmark to the local native people. The Crow Indians used the Pillar as a prayer site. The Crow Indians called the Pillar the place where the Mountain Lion lives. There is a natural head of a lion in the sandstone on the north face of the Pillar. The Yellowstone Valley has long been considered the heart of Crow Country. Many historians believe that the original location of the Crow were at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Some others think the Crows may have come from Manitoba. What is known is that they settled in southern Montana. The Crow were pushed westward by the influx of the Sioux. The Sioux themselves were pushed west by American westward migration.

A National Monument

crow indian photo
Crow Indians, circa 1880
The organization which can be said was responsible for Pompeys Pillar becoming a National Monument was the Pompeys Pillar Historical Association. According to the Association, their mission statement is.. "To develop the historic potential of Pompeys Pillar National Monument, the site of the only remaining physical evidence on the trail of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806". Another very interesting nearby site is Guernsey Lake State Historic Park in Wyoming where excellent remnants of Oregon Trail wagon wheel ruts can be seen.

The site was named a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and then became a National Historic Monument in 2001. Pompeys Pillar Interpretive Center opened it's doors in 2006. Exhibits on display in the 5,700 square foot center relate to the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the entire detachment.

Here you will find a very large amount of Lewis and Clark information. The Montana Lewis and Clark route is detailed very well at the interpretive center. The center also showcases native culture, flora and fauna. A side trip to Pompeys Pillar National Monument during your next western vacation would be a fun, low cost and highly educational stop for the entire family.

The monument is located northeast of Yellowstone National Park. Use exit 23 off Interstate-94. You can also reach Pompeys Pillar on State Hwy 312. It's a picturesque vacation stop with many good photo opportunities.

(Photos from the public domain)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Atchison Topeka and Fred Harvey Civilize the Southwest

The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and The Fred Harvey Company did more than any other entity in opening the American southwest to tourism. The great thing about their story is that they not only promoted the southwest but they did it in a way that essentially upgraded the travel experience. Many would say that they "civilized" the way people traveled.

needles hotel
Old Harvey House, Needles, CA
In the early days of the railroad it was quite rare to have dining cars. To allow passengers to have meals the train would stop every 80-100 miles. Trains, trying to stay on a schedule would allow the passenger perhaps one hour to eat. Hopefully the dining room was at the train station. If not you would have to search around town for an eating establishment. Finding a restaurant, ordering your meal, paying for it and making it back aboard the train all had to be accomplished in one hour. Hopefully you found a decent restaurant and hopefully you made it back to the train on time. If you didn't, the train didn't wait. The problem of missing trains while out looking for a place to eat became a big problem nationally. Friends and relatives would be waiting at a station and when the passenger didn't arrive there was no accurate way to find out what had happened. The train manifests were such that it was impossible to find out if someone was just lost or if something bad had happened during their journey.

Fred Harvey turned out to be the right man at the right time. Harvey had a background in the restaurant business going back to the time he emigrated from Scotland. Eventually he found a position as a railroad freight agent which required him to travel extensively. He knew as well as anybody the difficulty of finding decent restaurants along the rail routes. Fred Harvey had an idea.

picture of fred harvey
Frederick Henry Harvey
Harvey's current employer turned down his idea of establishing quality eating places along it's routes. In a chance encounter with Charles Morse, superintendent of the AT&SF, he explained his idea to him. Morse liked the idea. This started what many refer to as America's first fast food restaurant chain. Harvey's agreement with the AT&SF was that they would share the building costs and the railroad gave Harvey space on their trains for transporting his food and equipment. The Harvey House goal was to increase AT&SF ridership by offering it's passengers high quality food at reasonable prices. Harvey Houses typically offered tables with tablecloths and silverware. Something quite rare in the west at that time.

Harvey lunchrooms eventually could be found Kansas to California, all along the AT&SF route. By the late 1880's, there was a Harvey dining location every one hundred miles along the Santa Fe line. Harvey's food quality was aided in part by the AT&SF refrigerated cars which transported the freshest food available in all the southwest.

The AT$SF pressed Harvey into operating their new dining cars. Although he was reluctant to try to prepare quality meals on a rolling train, he did agree to and this added another positive marketing point for the AT&SF.

el tovar hotel
El Tovar, early 1900's
At it's zenith, the Harvey Houses numbered 84 and not all were on the AT&SF rail line. States with Harvey Houses included Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, New Mexico, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. The two most popular tourist hotels/restaurants that The Fred Harvey Company operated were considered by many to be the El Tovar at the Grand Canyon and the La Fonda Hotel on the Santa Fe New Mexico plaza. While neither one of these were directly on the AT&SF line, they were connected to it by spur lines. The traveling public associated a Harvey Hotel with quality.

The former Harvey House in Waynoka Oklahoma makes an excellent side trip. The building now houses the Waynoka History Museum on the second floor and a restaurant and gift shop on the ground floor. What's very interesting is that Waynoka and this Harvey House was part of the transcontinental airplane/train system. Started in 1929, this arrangement allowed a traveler to go between New York City and Los Angeles in 48 hours. An unheard travel time in that year. A passenger traveling westbound would take a Pennsylvania Railroad train from New York to Columbus Ohio. Then he/she would take a Ford Tri-Motor airplane from Columbus to Waynoka Oklahoma. After spending the night at the Harvey House in Waynoka the traveler would board an AT&SF train to Clovis New Mexico. From Clovis the passenger would fly to Los Angeles.

la fonda hotel in santa fe
La Fonda Hotel, 2011
Harvey could be said to be the inventor of cultural tourism.. His "Indian Detours" was a motorcoach tour company which operated out of Santa Fe New Mexico.Typically the tour began from La Fonda Hotel Santa Fe on the plaza and would usher tourists to the nearby Indian pueblos and other scenic attractions so plentiful in New Mexico. Guides would mostly be knowledgeable young women who often times might give historical lectures at the hotel prior to a tour. This began around 1925 when the AT&SF Railroad purchased the La Fonda from local investors and installed The Fred Harvey Company to manage the hotel. The AT&SF and Fred Harvey became a big part of Santa Fe history. Fred Harvey also had great success with his motor tours in the Grand Canyon area largely with tourists arriving via the AT&SF.

The "Harvey Girls" of course was synonymous with Harvey's operations. In 1883, Harvey decided to advertise in midwest and eastern papers for smart attractive and well mannered young women who would essentially be waitresses at his Harvey Houses. His motivation for this had to do with the type of clientele often seen in western restaurants and hotels in the late 1800's. That is very unsophisticated and rather rowdy individuals. The thought was that his "Harvey Girls" would lend a degree of civilized sophistication to the premises. The pay offered was really excellent for the era. It was $17.50 a month, plus tips. The women who were hired were transported west free of charge and given room and board. The Harvey Girls were nothing short of a spectacular success and are well remembered over a century later. The Harvey Girl was characterized by her starched, black-and-white uniforms, were overseen by a house mother and were on duty six or seven days a week. Below is a display of a Harvey uniform courtesy of Jot Powers. The Harvey Girls popularity was such that there was a 1946 musical filmed by MGM regarding the Harvey Girls starring Judy Garland. The Harvey Girls movie won an Academy Award for Best Song, "On the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe".

harvey girls uniform
After Fred Harvey's death in 1901 his family continued on with the business until 1968 when they sold it to the AmFac Corporation.. When Fred Harvey passed away there were 47 Harvey House restaurants, 15 hotels, and 30 dining cars operating on the AT&SF. The Harvey property chain was an amazing achievement. In Arizona alone Harvey had locations in Ash Fork, Flagstaff, Seligman, Williams, Winslow and the El Tovar on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.The Grand canyon Railway train station in Williams Arizona is a good reminder of the presence of Harvey Houses. Thousands of visitors see the train depot every year waiting to take the train north to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The depot was once the Fray Marcos Hotel, a Harvey House and today a museum and gift shop. Williams is on Interstate-40 about a 30 minute drive west of Flagstaff.  In 1984 Williams entire downtown district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Railroads in the late 1800's did much to promote tourism throughout the west. They tapped into the curiosity of the easterner and promoted their scenic destinations heavily. Another example similar to what the AT&SF did for the American southwest was what the Northern Pacific Railroad did for the beautiful Glacier National Park.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fort Davis Texas

Army forts were established on a rough line of westward emigration. When the Gold Rush of the mid 1800's came about more people than ever headed west. The goal of military forts such as Ft Davis was simply to extend security whenever possible. The military forts existed to aid emigration. In the case of Fort Davis, it was established in 1854 to help protect a road which was 600 miles in length stretching from San Antonio Texas all the way to El Paso.

The military post helped protect settlers, mail coaches and freight wagons on this isolated south Texas trail. During this era the biggest concern for anyone traveling the trail was the nomadic Comanches. The Comanches were hunters and excellent horsemen and were also known to be some of the fiercest warriors of all Indian tribes. Many historians have contended that the Comanches were tougher warriors than even the Apaches.

The Civil War and Texas

Photo by Zereshk, CC Share-Alike
The Civil War, especially in Texas, had unintended repercussions. The Comanches and in some cases the Apaches threat to westward expansion was alive and well in Texas from the time of the Texas Republic.

The Spaniards and Mexican, during both of their rule of Texas, had fought the Comanches. This was considered one of the reasons that the Spaniards and Mexicans offered land grants to American settlers. Both the Spaniards and then the Mexicans in the 1820's wanted some type of buffer between them and the Comanches.

The Spaniards were also looking for a buffer between Louisiana and their territory in New Mexico. Offering land to settlers seemed like a solution. The Indian threat was one of the reasons for the founding of the famed Texas Rangers. In a way, you could say there was an ongoing frontier war in Texas even prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Settlers Flock to the Southwest

There was quite a bit of western migration in the 1850's. This was not only because of the western gold strikes but also because of the end of the Mexican-American War which opened up the New Mexico Territory to the Union. Many of the early New Mexico settlers came from Texas, especially along the southern tier of the vast New Mexico Territory. This concentration of pro confederate settlers was one reason for the attempted succession of the southern part of the New Mexico Territory during the Civil War. The Confederacy ideally wanted to establish a link to the Pacific from Texas to southern California. Geographically, Fort Davis located near the beautiful Davis Mountains near the Big Bend area of Texas was in a Confederate stronghold.

Desolate terrain of southwest Texas
The Civil War caused big problems in Texas and not only involving the Union. Two things happened. Many Union troops were called east to the major battle areas. This stripped the Texas frontier of military protection. The second element was that Texas was on the side of the Confederacy. Texas militia attacked and took over the Union forts in their area of the country. Most accounts report that the forts actually surrendered as opposed to full scale warfare between Union troops and Texans. The Texans would have had much greater numbers.

With the absence of Union Cavalry Comanche raids increased. Settlers along the frontier edge were at much greater risk. While the Texas militia drove Union troops out of Texas at the beginning of the war, they had no less trouble with the Comanches. You could almost say that the pro Confederate Texans were fighting a two front war. In addition to the Comanches, the Apaches were also present in south Texas until they were later literally driven out by the Comanches. Texas settlers and militia fought the Comanches before the Civil War and continued to do so after the war ended.

The Post War Buffalo Soldiers

Post-war troopers were black "buffalo soldiers," many of them former slaves from Southern plantations. The Buffalo Soldiers also served during this time at Fort Concho in San Angelo Texas to the north of Fort Davis. The Buffalo Soldiers served at Fort Davis from about 1867 to 1885. Later on at the turn of the century, the Buffalo Soldiers distinguished themselves again by being the first unofficial "park rangers" in Yosemite National Park in California.

Ninth Cavalry Buffalo Soldier,circa 1890
As the western movement resumed, troopers patrolled the long immigrant road, escorted mail and wagon trains, and mounted wide-ranging expeditions into the vast wilderness territory until Fort Davis was deactivated in 1891.

At about this time many western forts were being shut down as the Census Bureau officially announced the end of the western frontier in 1890. The year 1890 also saw what many historians refer to as the last battle of the Indian War, the Wounded Knee Massacre, which really wasn't a battle as it was more of a one sided massacre of captured Sioux.

Visiting Fort Davis Texas

The old Fort Davis site was officially dedicated in 1966 and is now managed by the National Park Service. The old Fort Davis today is an excellent example of frontier forts from that historic era, including both ruins and restorations.

The fort's museum, open daily in reconstructed barracks, does a fine job of interpreting frontier life during the mid 1800's. Another event at the fort is a sound re-creation of a 19th-century military parade—bugles and hoofbeats, the unique sounds of mounted troops, and music from 1875 band manuals.

Ft. Davis Post Hospital, circa 1910

A visit to old Ft Davis makes an excellent stop as part as your Texas vacation.

Easily accessible from Interstate-10 in southwest Texas, the fort gives the visitor a real feel for life on a southwest frontier post. Located on the northern edge of town, the fort can be reached from I-10 on the north, or U.S. 90 from the south. The site can be reached by Texas 17 and Texas 118.

Fort Davis is located about 175 miles southeast of El Paso Texas. Also a very good stop is Fort Davis State Park located 4 miles northwest of the town of Fort Davis TX. It is one of the best state parks in Texas.

Don't miss the McDonald Observatory also in the Davis Mountains. This is a first class observatory and functions as a research unit for the University of Texas in Austin. This is a fun Texas side trip for the entire family. There are many excellent stops on your Texas road trip between San Antonio and El Paso and Fort Davis is one of them.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)

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